Carmel Valley writer creates invaluable memoirs for families, companies
By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley resident Sid Shapira is in the business of preserving memories. With his new venture, “Stories Be Told,” Shapira helps people create their memoirs, full of irreplaceable and priceless stories and photos. The end result is a “most treasured gift” to families and future generations.“It’s something that’s really important, something I wished I’d done with my parents before they passed away,” Shapira said. “These stories, once the person leaves, they’re gone.”
A native of Canada, Shapira studied journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto and got a job working as reporter for the Globe and Mail newspaper. He moved into public relations and corporate marketing communications—work he still does as a consultant—but he never lost his affinity for being a storyteller.
“I always had a great passion for writing and loved doing human interest stories and profile pieces,” Shapira said.
Shortly after he moved to San Diego in 1991, he was commissioned to co-author an autobiography of Time Inc. executive Jack Leonard for his four children. Shapira had a great experience recounting Leonard’s fascinating stories about being friends with Olympian Jesse Owens and comedian Lou Costello.
Several years passed but Shapira always had the idea in the back of his mind to tell people’s stories. He started Stories Be Told this year and has already completed several books.
Shapira’s comprehensive interview takes a few hours as people lead him through their childhood to present day. People talk about their families, their neighborhood, their hobbies, careers and passions. Sometimes the interviews can get very emotional, he said, as people remember family members lost. He said while those stories are difficult to get through, it can sometimes be cathartic for people to have a chance to talk it out.
Each book ends with “Words of Wisdom,” advice on life from the subject to their family.
Shapira works with a designer on the East Coast to create the bound books, stylishly laid out with chapters and photos. Customers get to review the copy before it’s printed and the whole process takes about six-eight weeks depending on the complexity of the story. Books have ranged between 50 and 150 pages.
“It comes out really nice, like a coffee table book that they can really cherish and share with their family,” Shapira said.
Shapira said his favorite stories are usually about the kids—one of his clients told a story about how her daughter wrote a book report on Pablo Picasso based off a book on the family mantle called “Viva Picasso.” The woman decided to take a look at the report before she went to school and the first line of the report read “Viva was born in…”
The funny story sprang to the woman’s mind years later when she was working at a theater in Minnesota and met Picasso’s daughter — she was able to share the memory with “Viva’s” daughter.
“There’s some real gems that come out,” Shapira said. “It’s something that’s really fun to do and it’s so rewarding.”
Shapira is also available to do corporate histories to enable companies to document their stories and history, as well. Shapira can also conduct out-of-state interviews via telephone. For more information, visit storiesbetold.com or call (858) 926-8695.
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